Special edition of Health Affairs highlights the power of precision medicine

Wednesday, May 9, 2018
By Alissa Kocer
Red sign with a white border that reads "Health Affairs"

Health Affairs, the internationally recognized policy journal, published their first ever issue devoted to precision medicine, which highlights the broad spectrum of issues associated with development and implementation of this field. The collection of articles features real-world examples of precision medicine applications and programs, and proposes policy prescriptions in advancing its implementation and impact in the U.S. and globally. Two articles were published by faculty from the Duke Center of Applied Genomics and Precision Medicine (CAGPM), Director Geoff Ginsburg and Susanne Haga.

Ginsburg co-authored an overview of precision medicine and its vital stakeholders with Kathryn Phillips, founding director of the Center for Translational and Policy Research on Personalized Medicine (TRANSPERS) at the University of California, San Francisco. “Precision medicine is coming of age,” Ginsburg said. “Data science and digital health combined with genomics and the electronic medical record are making it possible for us to develop and refine predictive models for disease risk, diagnosis, prognosis and response to therapies.” The goal of precision medicine is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of disease prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment. Precision medicine can guide health care decisions towards the most effective treatment for an individual patient, which, in turn, will improve the quality of care while also reducing the need for unnecessary diagnostic testing and therapies. In order for precision medicine to thrive, though, there needs to be collaboration and cooperation from a variety of groups, including patients, healthcare providers, regulators, researchers, health information technology (IT) community, policy makers and consumers. “A robust policy agenda from evidence generation to reimbursement to patient engagement and trust are critical success factors for precision medicine,” Ginsburg said.

In the second paper by CAGPM faculty, Susanne Haga along with Duke undergraduate research assistant Ariel Kantor report on their analysis of the number and types of pharmacogenetic tests offered by clinical testing laboratories in the U.S. “Pharmacogenetic testing is offered by a range of laboratories in academic medical centers, reference labs and specialty labs alike,” says Haga. “Not surprisingly, with next-gen sequencing technologies and the movement to offer tests in advance of treatment, pharmacogenetic testing panels are quite common, but this poses challenges to health providers to decide the most appropriate test for their patients.”

A briefing on the May issue of Health Affairs was held Tuesday, May 8 in Washington, D.C. The webcast from the event is available for download.